In February 2009 I developed a pea sized lump in my groin. In just over one month it had grown to the size of an apple. Without a definitive diagnosis, I had surgery on the 6th April to try and remove the mass. It was then that I received confirmation that I had cancer. I had just turned 33. I had two young children. I was devastated for them, my wife and family.
The type of cancer was quickly confirmed as stage 4BS advanced anaplastic large T-cell lymphoma. There are no further stages. It was still growing in my groin. I also had a tumour on the side of my head. A scan also revealed that it was present in my lungs, spleen and stomach nodes. Chemotherapy could not start due to the risk of infection as I had just undergone invasive surgery and would have no immune system to protect me. I also needed further surgery to remove the lump from my head.
However, the staff at the Royal Gwent Hospital were unrelenting. Excellent post-operative care and decisive consultancy got my body ready for chemotherapy.
The first round of chemo was the worse - I was at my weakest. It was remarkable though how quickly the cancer had reacted to it. My first break came with the news that the cancer cells had a protein that reacted particularly well with the chemo and perversely, the more aggressive the cancer the more the chemicals can target it.
The outlook started to get more positive from this point. As I got stronger, the sessions didn’t wipe me out as much and my recovery times improved. I still had problems as a result of a missing immune system but the excellent care I was given at hospital ensured that things didn’t get as bad as they could.
A scan in August 2009 revealed that the disease had gone. In receipt of a cancer free but broken body and mindful of all the promises I’d made to myself, I started my return back to health.
I’m now in my fifth year of remission and I’ve rekindled my love affair with cycling. I’m in need of a serious physical challenge, of the positive type you understand, so this year I’ve decided to take on Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research’s London to Paris ride! www.justgiving.com/martin-o-brian